Delta Waters Flyover with Joel Carey

A Sacramento River water intake structure looms over the waters along Interstate 5 in Sacramento. Solano County wants the state to do more analysis on a proposed Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta rescue plan that could turn eastern county farmland into restored tidal wetlands. (Daily Republic file 2012)

Solano County

Solano to state: Do more Delta analysis

By From page A1 | May 14, 2014

FAIRFIELD — Solano County wants the state to do more analysis on a proposed Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta rescue plan that could turn eastern county farmland into restored tidal wetlands.

The county is still formulating its comment letter on the proposed Bay Delta Conservation Plan and its 30,000-page-plus environmental report. The Solano County Board of Supervisors studied the possible, local agricultural impacts Tuesday.

Supervisor Jim Spering said there needs to be more public education on how the Bay Delta Conservation Plan could affect Solano County.

“If we’re going to really oppose the BDCP, there has to be some public support,” Spering said.

California and the federal government propose to build 35-mile-long twin tunnels under the Delta for water exports to Southern California cities and Central Valley farms. The existing export pumps in the south Delta have been periodically shut down to avoid killing the rare Delta smelt. By pumping water north of the Delta, the state and federal water projects would avoid the rare fish restrictions.

More than 145,000 acres of habitat are to be protected or restored and protected to meet Endangered Species Act requirements associated with the state’s Delta plans. Of this amount, 80,000 acres is to be habitat restoration, with 65,000 acres of this amount to be tidal wetlands restoration.

The Bay Delta Conservation Plan doesn’t say specifically what properties will be targeted for tidal wetlands restoration, but identifies eastern Solano County and Suisun Marsh in the south county as “opportunity areas.” These are areas that remain undeveloped and have less soil subsidence than in many parts of the Delta.

Comments for the proposed Bay Delta Conservation Plan are due June 13. Solano County officials to date have had little positive to say and Tuesday’s session proved no exception.

Among other things, the county wants the Bay Delta Conservation Plan environmental report to:

  • Acknowledge the uncertainty over what habitat restoration land could be acquired and how the restoration projects could affect the viability of adjacent farming and farm-related businesses.
  • Explain how the Bay Delta Conservation Plans habitat targets would be met if no willing sellers are found.
  • Do more study on how increased salinity in the Delta could affect farmland.
  • Clarify how property owners would be compensated for economic losses that result from the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.
  • Acknowledge economic significance of recreational fishing and its need for fresh water. Acknowledge economic significance of hunting on farmland.
  • Make certain counties get paid money to make up for the property taxes lost when private farmland becomes publicly owned conservation areas.

Supervisor John Vasquez wants the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to look at what happens to farmworkers who lose their jobs if farmland converts to wildlife habitat.

“There’s a real social justice issue there,” he said.

Supervisor Linda Seifert said Solano County has its own agricultural experiences that should be reflected in the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. She mentioned the threat of blackbirds in restored wildlife area stripping nearby sunflower fields.

Russ Lester, a county walnut farmer on the county’s Agricultural Advisory Committee, said local farmers just can’t fathom how pumping Sacramento River water before it enters the Delta will keep the Delta environment as it is and enhance it. Taking water upstream on the San Joaquin River hasn’t helped the Delta, he said.

“It’s just counterintuitive, it’s counterscientific, it’s counter-everything,” Lester said.

As some farms get converted to habitat, that could mean that agricultural support businesses also leave. Then he can’t buy tractor parts or fertilizer, Lester said.

“We basically don’t trust anything that comes out of this entire process,” Lester said.

Ryan Mahoney, president of the Solano County Farm Bureau, said farms in the Cache Slough area pump water from sloughs. The Bay Delta Conservation Plan proposes to introduced rare fish to the area. That raises the question of pumping restrictions.

“They talk about ‘safe harbor,’ ” Vasquez replied. “But there is no safe harbor. Critters don’t know where the fence lines are.”

Steve Chappell, executive director of the Suisun Resource Conservation District, talked about Suisun Marsh. He expressed the concern that tidal wetlands restoration there could reach a tipping point, making the adjacent, remaining hunting clubs unviable. Then the entire marsh might become restored tidal wetlands and the 150 hunting clubs there today would be gone.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling has been a reporter with the Daily Republic since 1987. He covers Solano County government, transportation, growth and the environment. He received his bachelors of art degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara and his masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley.

Discussion | 2 comments

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  • BobMay 14, 2014 - 9:36 am

    Check out Save the Delta, connect with an organization that has the environmental reports already and save us some money. They would be happy to hear from Solano, ask for Barbra or check their website

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rick WoodMay 14, 2014 - 8:12 pm

    The County is on the right track by trying to determine how to best protect County interests without opposing the BDCP.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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